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Slender gain by Bahrain opposition   

Gulf Today - 25 October, 2010

The main opposition group made a slender gain in Bahrain’s parliamentary poll, results showed on Sunday.

The Islamic National Accord Association won 18 seats in the 40-member Bahraini parliament in Saturday’s poll, the electoral commission announced.

The 18 candidates of INAA, which clinched 17 seats at the last poll in 2006, were all elected from a first round, with more than the required 50 per cent of votes, commission chairman Abdullah Al Buainain said.

Top cleric and MP Sheikh Ali Salman hailed the results and called for a “more positive” stance from the government.

“The most important message for the government is that Al-Wefaq (INAA) is the largest political association in Bahrain,” said Salman, who is also the head of INAA.

“The people’s will must be respected and dealt with positively.”

Nine seats remain up for grabs in a second round of voting on Oct.30. Two candidates from the National Democratic Action Association, an alliance of pan-Arab nationalists and leftists which failed to win seats in 2006, including a woman, Munira Fakhru, are to run in the second round.

Eight women figured among the 127 candidates running in the first round. Candidates of two allied groups, the National Islamic Forum and Al-Assalah, will also contest next Saturday’s vote.

The Forum, the local arm of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, had seven seats in the outgoing parliament, and three of its eight candidates lost this time round, with the other five to run again on Saturday.

Al-Assalah which had five seats won two from the first round and is to contest another three on Saturday.

Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled Bin Ali Al Khalifa, head of the electoral commission, estimated turnout of “at least 67 per cent,” compared with 72 per cent in 2006 and 53.4 per cent in 2002.

Some people complained that their names had been missing from voters’ lists on Saturday, but senior officials dismissed the claims.

With Sunday’s results, INAA strengthens its presence in the lower house of parliament which has the authority to examine and pass legislation proposed by the king or cabinet and also has monitoring powers.

A 40-member upper chamber, or consultative council, appointed by the king has the power to block legislation coming out of the lower house.

“The Shiites who were hesitant or intended to boycott the elections voted overwhelmingly in favour of Al-Wefaq, the representative of their community,” analyst Obaidaly Al Obaidaly said.
 
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